For long stretches Thursday night, the Washington men’s basketball team couldn’t stop Wyoming’s Graham Ike and Hunter Maldonado from scoring and couldn’t make shots at the other end of the floor.
Those two factors largely explain why the Huskies dropped their second nonconference game — a 77-72 overtime loss in front of 5,670 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We’re going to have to make some shots,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “We defended the three. We did everything that we believe we had to do to win. We fouled a little bit too much. I know we didn’t take all great shots, but we’re going to have to make some more. That’s just what it is.”
Washington entered the game with an offense that was averaging 69.7 points and ranked last in the Pac-12 while shooting 33.9% on field goals and 26.4% behind the arc.
Despite a season-high 30 -point performance from Terrell Brown Jr., the Huskies struggled once again to generate points.
UW shot 32.1% from the field, 19.2% on three-pointers (5 for 26) and 65.2% on free throws (15 of 23).
Aside from Brown, Husky starters were 6 of 25 shooting, including 2 of 11 behind the arc.
“We’re going to stay locked into the gym,” said Brown, who converted 10 of 29 shots and was 1 for 4 on three-pointers. “Things like this happen. You have slow starts. … The ball is just not bouncing our way into the hoop right now, but I know eventually it’ll change.”
On Thursday, the Huskies missed 17 of its first 21 field goals, including 13 in a row in the first 10 ½ minutes.
Wyoming led 24-15 when Washington seized control with a 14-2 run that included Emmitt Matthew Jr.’s baseline drive for a dunk, Cole Bajema’s corner three-pointer and PJ Fuller’s short jumper that put the Huskies up 29-26 with 2:31 left.
However, the Cowboys wrestled away the momentum and finished the first half with an 8-2 run to go into halftime ahead 34-31.
The Huskies platooned a trio of low-post defenders against Ike, but Nate Roberts, Langston Wilson and Jackson Grant couldn’t slow down the 6-foot-9 Wyoming sophomore forward, who accounted for half of the Cowboys’ scoring while connecting on 8 of 14 field goals for 17 points in the first half.
Washington has trailed at halftime in three of its first four games this season. UW was 1-1 in two of those previous encounters, including a 72-65 win over Texas Southern on Monday.
Foul trouble limited Ike to just nine minutes in the second half and the Huskies seemingly regained control of the game with a 62-55 lead with 5:15 left.
However, UW converted just 1 of 8 field goals the rest of the way in regulation.
Meanwhile, Ike returned in the final minutes and continued to dominate in the post. He tied the game with a free throw at 65-65 with 28 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Brown had a chance to win the game. However, his short runner in traffic rolled off the rim.
“It was just a misread from myself because (Ike) kind of hesitated toward me and went back,” said Brown, who also had three rebounds, three assists and two steals. “And I shot a floater on him and wasn’t prepared to go straight to the basket. I knew it was mistake. I knew he was in foul trouble and he didn’t want to get his fifth foul. I should have went strong to the basket and finished it. That was just a missed judgment.”
In overtime, Ike (26 points) and Maldonado (24 points) each scored four points and finished with 10 rebounds. UW had no defense for the Cowboys’ duo, who combined to attempt 19 free throws for Wyoming, which was 20 of 32 at the line.
Roberts and Matthews fouled out while attempting to slow down Ike and Daejon Davis was limited to a season-low 19 minutes due to foul trouble.
Xavier DuSell also added 15 points for Wyoming, which improved to 3-0.
Defensively, the Huskies were at their best when they pressed and forced 17 turnovers that led to 20 points. UW also held Wyoming to just 3 of 16 on three-pointers.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to close the game out,” Brown said. “Get a couple of stops. Figure out to get a stop and win the game. Hats off to them. We played a really good offensive team. … It’s us getting stops. That’s the biggest thing.”
The Huskies didn’t put up much of a fight after quickly falling behind 73-67 early in overtime. UW was outscored 12-7 and converted just 3 of 10 shots in the extra period.
With the exception of Brown, no other UW player posed much of an offensive threat. Jamal Bey finished with 10 points.
“It’s hard to win and it puts a lot of pressure on the defense when you’re shooting 32% from the field, 19% from the three-point line and 65% from the foul line,” Hopkins said. “I felt like in the first half, we shot it too quick. … We kept telling the guys, try to get in the paint before we shoot a three just so it’s an energy shot in rhythm.”
Next week the Huskies (2-2) travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for three games at the Crossover Classic against George Mason, South Dakota State and Nevada.
UW returns home to host Winthrop on Nov. 27 before its hardest three-game stretch of the season that begins with a Pac-12 opener at Arizona on Dec. 2 followed by a visit from No. 2 UCLA on Dec. 5 and concluding with a trip to No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 12.
“It’s a work in progress,” Brown said when asked about team morale. “We’re together. We’re united. We made a pact to each other that nothing is going to get in our way like outside voices or anything like that. That’s the biggest thing. We’re going to stay together throughout the season, good or bad.
“It’s good to have these losses now that we can see and learn from. Hopefully down the line we’ll come out the other end of this.”